When Sacrifice Is No Hardship
What would cause fishermen like Peter, James and John to walk away from the biggest catch of their lives and leave it to rot - or to profit their rivals - on the shore?
Andrew Haslam preached on the Mark 12 passage last Sunday, and explained that there were 13 offering boxes in the temple courts, twelve of which were designated for the different types of offering required by the Law. The thirteenth was for freewill offerings, given out of the overflow of people’s hearts. It seems that this was the box the widow was giving into, in this Passover week.
The rich were giving out of their plenty, but she gave abundantly out of her lack. It was a sacrifice, but Andrew pointed out that when we are sacrificing with the right attitude, when we are giving as a response of thankfulness for God’s goodness to us, when our sacrifice is truly worship, not just empty ritual, giving all we have doesn’t feel like a hardship. It feels like joy.
This reminded me of the passage in Luke where Jesus called the first disciples. God brought it to my mind a few months ago, and it has just been hovering there without really finding a place to land until now.
As the story opens, Simon Peter, James and John are sitting by the lake mending their nets. They had fished all night and caught nothing. They must have been wondering what they would say to their wives. The discouragement of working all night and having nothing to show for it, in a world where that would seriously impact their livelihood, must have been crushing.
Then Jesus came along, borrowed Simon’s boat as a floating stage from which to teach the crowds, then gave Simon an enormous catch of fish - more than two boats could hold. He lavished on Simon more than Simon could have dreamed of, enough to provide his family with security, with some money they could save up against hard times, enough for a few treats, perhaps.
And yet, having sat close to Jesus and heard his teaching, Simon didn’t hesitate to leave behind the abundant blessing of Christ, for the sake of following Christ himself.
Picture that - Simon’s boat and that of James and John, filled with fish to the point that they had been in serious danger of sinking, pulled up to shore and abandoned. Leaving their families with even worse prospects, as not only was there no income that day, but there would never be again. What would be the equivalent for you? What would it mean to have everything you ever wanted handed to you on a plate (totally legally and morally). What would it take for you to give it all up?
And this doesn’t just refer to financial wealth, either. Consider Hannah, desperate for a child, pleading with God for years, then handing the child she was given back to him and walking away. Consider Paul on the road to Damascus - at the top of his game, a zealot of zealots - walking away, turning his back on everything: his position, his reputation, his pride.
As the writer to the Hebrews shows, over and over - Jesus is better. Jesus is better than everything else we put our hope in. Jesus is better than getting everything we ever wanted. Jesus is better than riches beyond imagining, than our families, our children. Jesus is better.
To give him our all is no sacrifice. It is the gateway to abundant joy.